The Life of Bon: What we did in class this week + What I wore

Monday, December 16, 2013

What we did in class this week + What I wore

Headband:  American Eagle, Cardigan: Gap Outlet, Blouse: Thrifted, Pants: Express, Flats: Gap Outlet

Original idea for this post is taken from Elizabeth.

I was supposed to do this post last week, but then I started talking about my clothes and didn't stop.  I am somewhat embarrassed that I'm apparently so passionate about clothes that I left no time or energy left to talk about what I'm actually teaching.  It's a weird world.

But here it is anyway!  A few days late!  What we did in class, yo!

Seniors:  We finally finished up Hamlet and what a ride it was!  When I went to an AP conference in October the guy talked so much about how Shakespeare should be performed.  He suggested a book called Shakespeare Set Free that has lesson plans and ideas to make Shakespeare plays more accessible to students.  I loved using it as a resource because it definitely brought it to life for students.  We dressed up, we had modern interpretations, we had kids reading lines right and left.   We even turned the desks into a bed for one scene. Overall, I felt I did a much stronger job of teaching Hamlet than I have ever done with any other Shakespeare play.  I received the greatest compliment of all when a student said something like, "All my friends talk about how much they hate Shakespeare and how hard it is to understand, but it wasn't hard at all for me to understand with the acting out and all the explanations you gave us."  Bingo!  Now, I can't say that's how all students felt.  There was definitely still a group of "I have no clue what is going on" students, but well, we tried.

Once we finished the play I decided to have kids act out one of the scenes instead of take a final test.  I made them cut lines from the scene, assign parts, come up with costumes, block the scene, and even memorize their lines!  No modern language either, it had to be the real Shakespeare lines!

I was majorly worried about how students were going to do the day of the final performance.  But gosh dang it, those kids nailed it!  I was absolutely shocked by how many kids had big chucks of Hamlet speeches memorized.  It just goes to show that kids will impress the crap out of you if you let them.

That being said, I don't know that I would attempt the "scene as final test" experiment again.  It ended up dragging my Hamlet unit out way longer than I intended.  I try to only spend about a month on a text and this one start to finish was closer to 7 weeks.  That's just too long!   Also, it was easy for some kids to get away with doing just a few lines and still get a good grade, so if I were to do this assignment in the future I would for sure give a line requirement.








All pictures of students are used with written consent from parent and student.

Any teacher who is teaching a Shakespeare play coming up I would for sure encourage you to buy the Shakespeare Set Free for the book.  It saved my life with lesson plans and made it much more interesting than I could have done on my own.

Funniest moments:  
Student reading out loud from Hamlet, "I am but hurt" but instead pronouncing it, "I am butt hurt."

In a summary of the final scene of Hamlet:  "At first I thought this book was really lame and boring.  And it was.  Still is but it did have its ups and downs"

Another summary:  "The play is very dramatic and has people going mad for no reason.  It doesn't really make sense."

So yah, those kids totally got the point of the Shakespeare unit!

Juniors:  My juniors have emerged into my pets.  They are just such a great group of kids.  Every year I fall crazily, drunkenly in love with the group of juniors that I have and I don't know if I've just always scored a good group of juniors or if it is something about the age.  Who's to say but I will fight for junior classes until my dying day.

This particular group of juniors is so good at discussions.  I will usually plan about 20 minutes for a topic and an hour later I realize we are still discussing the same themes.  They just go so deep on subjects and it's not just one or two students who are involved, it's like every single kid has this incredibly insightful, thought provoking idea to share with us.  I love it when students bring up arguments I myself have never thought of or heard and with these kids they do it all the time.  Many of the books we read junior year have "inappropriate content" in them (Crucible:  about witchcraft and an affair, The Scarlet Letter:  based on sex out of wedlock, Of Mice and Men:  language and the N word, Huck Finn:  The N word, The Great Gatsby:  entire book revolved around cheating, lying, and having affairs, The Things They Carried: language and violence including several F words) so we had a debate on censorship.  Should materials we read in school be censored or should anything be free game?  Students were able to pick their side and then had to come up with logical arguments for why.  Three students from each side presented a reason each, and then the opposite side had a chance to ask questions.  Wow, the kids got fired up!  Five extra credit points was on the line for the winning side (I had my teacher friend across the hall come in and judge the debate) and sheesh, you'd a thought the kids were arguing for their lives.  The debate went on and on and on and everytime I tried to close it kids had more ideas and more thoughts and to say I was impressed would be an understatement.

The team that was pro censorship in schools ended up winning because of better logic.  The other side got too emotional and had difficulty just arguing the logic.

Right now we are finishing up a unit on transcendentalism and romanticism.  We've been studying Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson.  I always love teaching about poets because they're all such nut jobs and students really get a kick out of that.  (He married his 13 year old cousin!  She killed herself by sticking her head in an oven!)  The weirder material is, the easier it is to teach.

AP Lit: This week we are finishing Jane Eyre.  I still struggle to find ways to engage the students in deep and thought provoking discussions about the literature we are reading.  There are only eight students in the class and none of them are especially inclined to give comments so it ends up a lot of me asking questions and then calling on specific students to tell me what they think.

We have also been focusing a lot on poetry as poetry makes up 1/2 of the multiple choice questions on the test and 1/3 of the essay section.  I've never been too great at teaching poetry, and I feel it more than ever in this class.  I am certainly doing the best I can and putting my heart and soul in that class, but it is definitely a learning curve for me.  One thing I have done with the poetry, though, that I feel has been successful was an idea taken from the AP Lit conference.  I gave students 20 poems at the beginning of the quarter and they are to read all of those poems once a week and then write a 200 word response to any one of those poems.  They are supposed to read those poems in a different place each week.  One day in class we all took our anthologies and went down to the auditorium to read the poems on stage.  We each took turns reading a poem.  It's amazing what just getting out of the classroom will do for morale.

We are also focusing hard on vocab (my biggest struggle with AP so far is BALANCE!  I feel like we are always doing so much and I never feel like we get to everything.  I'm hoping to have it a bit better figured out by next year) to use in the essay portion of the test.  I discovered after a few timed writes that the kids were using the same words over and over to describe characters and tone.  "This poem is negative"  "This poem is happy."  So we brought out the adjectives and they've been studying a whole hooplah of words that will hopefully give them some confidence on the essay.  I'll give you ten- let's see how many you know the meaning of!

1.  Obsequious
2.  Admonitory
3.  Pretentious
4.  Dogmatic
5.  Pompous
6.  Sardonic
7.  Wry
8.  Facetious
9.  Apathetic
10. Capricious

(Leave a comment telling me how many words you knew without looking them up!)

On Friday we reviewed these words like crazy.  I found some great resources online and we played this game- basically students come up with an easy gesture and tone for saying the word.  So for obsequious which means dutiful and obedient my student did a salute and said "OBSEQUIOUS!" like a soldier would.  Then we all repeat the word and the gesture.  Once students all had a word and had done their gesture we passed the words around.  We did four rounds of this and I was shocked by how well the students did with it.  They came up with the best gestures to remember their words.  Smart cookies!  Tomorrow we will be doing this game, which is basically a homemade version of Apples to Apples.  I already had the students make the cards.   

37 comments:

  1. I just love all of your ideas! I know you said these posts always get the least amount of hits, but they are my favorites! (maybe because I'm a teacher too?..haha)
    keep going, bon! you are so awesome!

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    1. Thank you! They do get the least amount of hits. Blog world in general I think gears more to girls who want to know where you got your shoes from then what you're reading in English class. I say why not both?! :)

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  2. Sometimes, the English major in me and reading you and Elizabeth make think I want to teach.

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  3. Vocabulary words are so hard to get excited about, but it sounds like you are making it fun for the students.

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    1. I agree, vocab is hard to make entertaining but to me it's really interesting. I love words and learning new words- just hard to pass that on to students.

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  4. I am not a teacher, but dang Bon, you make teaching look so good! Thanks for sharing, and know that we non-educators appreciate it too!

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate this!

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  5. One thing my ap lit teacher does is gets the Shakespeare audio and we listen to it and read along in class. It's nice because then the students and teacher don't have to read, and we can make fun of the super exaggerated and bad accents. Just a thought for you!

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    1. Oh I love that idea! Is it easy to follow along with? When we do Shakespeare I find that we are stopping so often that I would worry about using something pre recorded just because of the incessant stops and starts. I love that they have the bad accents though and are super exaggerated. So great!

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  6. Okay, I would've killed for my high school English to be anything like you! It always sounds so fun.
    I'm proud to say I knew 7 of those words...then I think that since I took 2 years of AP English 3 years ago I probably should've know all of them!

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    1. Seven is great! And there's no way every AP teacher is going to teach all the same words so don't be too hard on yourself for not knowing them all :). Two years of AP? Did you do AP Lit and AP Lang?

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  7. 6 words! I am a nursing Student, but I do read books that are not textbooks occasionally...very occasionally.

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    1. Impressive! Glad to hear that nurses know the meaning of capricious and sardonic! :)

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  8. I knew all the words except #2 but I can guess the meaning bc it sounds like admonition. But I'm also the nerd who read Romeo & Juliet at age 11 bc I thought it seemed fun so ... yeah ...

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    1. Wow all the words! I think you are the winner! And yes #2 is the same as admonition... just the adjective form of it!

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  9. Bonnie, From a student its really cool to read about your experience as a teacher. Thank you for sharing with us and I hope that this last week before break goes good for you! Blessings!

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    1. Thank you so much Jessica. You are such a doll.

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  10. Nine out of ten! Not my best work, but I suppose it will do. I love these posts, it makes me think I should teach English, but then I think about my patience level and realize it may not be a good idea. ALSO I'm so glad you posted that disclaimer about your photos, because I was legit worried for you! I though "does Bon have her kids sign a media release waiver? She probably should. Should I tell her? I'm concerned." Good to know you've got all your bases covered so I can stop worrying.

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    1. Nine out of ten is great! Definitely don't need to beat yourself up over that. And yes, patience is definitely something you have to have a lot of to teach teenagers. I do think you get used to them though. My husband came to a bit of class last week and he was like, "Those kids drive me crazy I don't know how you do it!" I think we just grow numb to their annoying behaviors. And yes, I am trying to be a bit more careful about what I say and post online about school... gotta keep my job! :)

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  11. Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, so I'm glad you got to teach it. I always saved it for the end of the year and never had time…what a dummy I am!

    I knew 8 words… unless Admonitory is similar to admonish?! I HATED teaching vocab so, way to go! ;)

    And I like the ghost costume best.

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    1. I liked teaching Hamlet too, but it is so wordy! Don't you think? We skipped over tons of stuff and it STILL took us a month just to read the text. And by Act 4 I was kind of dying as were the students because it is so much of Hamlet saying, "I'm going to do something! I'm going to do something!" and then not doing anything. My personal feelings for Hamlet are still very mixed (such weak characters! Hamlet is a total pansy and even the villian is weak... I'd take an Iago over a Claudius any day) but the kids definitely got in to it, so as far as teaching it I definitely like it.

      And yes, admonitory is the adjective form of admonish so count it as nine words!

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  12. This makes the English major in me so happy! It's teachers like you, who make learning such a memorable experience, who stick with kids forever. There are few things more exciting than seeing students become passionate about the material that you love to teach!

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    1. I agree! When students forget they are supposed to be "cool" and get nerdily excited about learning. Win!

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  13. I LOVE JANE EYRE! It's a book I read post-college, for funsies, because my best friend insisted I would love it. She was right! I guess I just have a fondness for literature featuring strong women...

    The AP exam must have changed a lot since I took it a million years ago (in 2005). I don't remember poetry being that important on the exam.

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    1. I love Jane Eyre too! One of my favorite books ever to read... just struggling finding interesting ways to teach it. Some books are better independent books and some are better classroom ones... I just can't find activities or ways to make this engaging and social for the class. Any ideas would be appreciated!

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    2. You could tie in some modern ideas about being a nanny. I know Jane was technically a governess, but those no longer exist. Like you could show a clip from The Nanny Diaries or The Nanny or Au Pair. Ask the kids to imagine what it would be like going to boarding school, which is like the kid equivalent of living where you work. Think about how the boundaries between home life and work life, friend and employer, would be blurred.

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  14. You make me want to teach English. I just graduated with an English degree. I love it. But I don't know if I could handle teaching....

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    1. I bet you could! It's a lot of work initially, but it gets easier and more fun with every year!

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  15. I miss taking English classes and writing papers and discussion SO MUCH. So I personally love these posts :)

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    1. Interesting enough, so do I! I love leading the discussions and letting the students figure it out on their own but sometimes I just want to take over and dominate everything. Takes a lot of self control to let the students talk :)

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  16. 8 words! Woohoo, thank you SAT-prep class from years and years ago :) This post brings me right back to high school English class... some of my favorite memories. Transcendentalism is probably one of my favorite units!

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    1. I agree! So fun to teach!

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  17. what fun! i love the mess ups.!

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  18. Maybe you should somehow bring your Juniors and AP class together.... also, definitely only knew 2 words. Words aren't my forte.

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  19. I've always been worried about teaching Shakespeare because of teen's views on it. (I personally LOVE the Bard!) My 7th graders just finished a unit on 12th Night (which was also the first time I'd ever read it--I've only ever seen the movie She's the Man). And boy did they love it! It was so lewd and raunchy, and even though they could catch some of it, a lot still went over their heads (thank goodness). If you ever want a fun Shakespeare, definitely do that one....then, since you teach public high school, you could show She's the Man afterward and have a compare/contrast assignment for them!

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  20. I love your teaching posts! :) I get enthused by your enthusiasm.

    I knew 8 words.

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